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Taking Care of You with Self-Compassion

So often we hear the term “Self-care” and we think of more things to do: take a bubble bath, get into nature, eat right, exercise… I know, I know, the list goes on. That’s why I love the idea of what we can do, not later, but right in the moment when the unpleasant feelings arise.

Some of you already know a little bit about the two day Self-Compassion training I took last week with Chris Germer and Kristin Neff. The ideas were not necessarily new to me, but the feelings these teachings grow inside are so palpable. I find that I can hear these messages over and over and never get bored of them. 

The essential message is similar to the messages of almost every therapeutic orientation (at least the ones that I’ve been drawn to). It’s that while we are often ashamed of our “negative” feelings ~ the ones we may want to banish or cut ourselves off from ~ there is always an opportunity to make these feelings our allies instead, perhaps even very powerful ones! 

They define compassion as a wish to alleviate suffering and they say it is made up of 3 elements:
1. Mindfulness ~ presence, willingness to “be with”, to “turn towards”.
2. Common humanity ~ the recognition that everyone is inherently imperfect, life is imperfect. (This turns our instinct to isolate into connection instead). 
3. Kindness ~ a lovingness (rather than judgement) toward the feelings.

So? Did you have some resistance? Most people do! Write to me at and tell me what your resistance looks like (ie. Concern that it’s selfish? Fear it will lead to “laziness” or “not-doing”?) and I will respond in my next newsletter. 

One exercise we did that I really enjoyed was a writing one.

If you have a little time, give it a try!

It’s just 3 steps:

  1. Identify some “imperfections” about yourself that make you feel inadequate. Everyone has qualities or tendencies about themselves that they don’t like. It’s human to be imperfect. Just choose one thing. Then ask yourself: What are the emotions that come up around that? Just feel them as they are. 
  2. Write a letter to yourself. Picture an unconditionally loving imaginary friend who can see all your strengths and weaknesses, including what you’ve identified in step 1. How are they feeling towards you?  Tune into his or her kindness and wisdom, knowing that there are factors in your life (genes, family history, life events) that are out of your control. Write a letter to yourself from this friends’ perspective.Try to infuse the letter with their kindness, acceptance, care and well wishes. 
  3. Feel the compassion. Read the letter and feel the words soothe and comfort your heart. Love and connection are yours. You are allowed to feel complete. Accept all of you.

Hope you enjoy practicing taking care of yourself in all the ways!

Love Me

A poem by Hafiz:

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?


Celebrating Shadow

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” 

― Carl Gustav Jung

I always see Cupid makes an appearance at this time, but don’t hear many talking about the mythology associated. It’s a myth that is dear to my heart.

Some of you may know that Cupid is connected to a Roman myth involving his mother Venus and a beautiful woman named Psyche. A “coles notes” version of the story is this … Venus overhears Psyche’s father praising Psyche as the most beautiful princess ever and Venus is pissed! She’s jealous and furious at the idea of a mere mortal being as or more beautiful than herself, so she calls upon her son, Cupid, to shoot Psyche with an arrow to make her fall in love with a hideous beast! Cupid stumbles upon seeing Psyche though and he shoots himself, falling madly in love with her immediately. He knows that Venus will be upset about this news so he hides Psyche  in his castle and visits her only at night, in the dark so that she will not be able to tell anyone who he is. 

But one day Psyche gets curious as her friends find it so peculiar that she’s never seen him and they suggest that he may be ugly, or even a ghost! At night, Psyche goes down to where he sleeps to take a peek and unveil his identity. She is thrilled to see a handsome young man, but he is awoken by a drip of oil from her candle and he takes off, angry that she didn’t listen and he’s now been exposed.

Psyche calls on the goddess of love, who happens to be Venus, for help. Venus, not wanting her to succeed, sets her up with a series of impossible tasks. Amazingly, Psyche finds help along the way from nature and Cupid’s prayers, and gets through them… but on her last task of bringing oils from the underground (some recordings of the myth indicate) she breaths in what is actually a dangerous poison and dies. 

Cupid pleads to the gods, however, to make Psyche immortal and … they do!  So the lovers are married in heaven. 

Like any myth, we may look into this story and ask, “where do I see myself?”

As a culture, we may be more like Psyche’s sisters, questioning love based on how it looks… the image of love… physical attraction being weighed as most important. But those of us in true love ~ with another, or with life ~ know that it’s not so simple. On the outside, it may look as gorgeous as Venus but as filled with insecurity. Or, in the case of Cupid and Psyche that love may be shared in the dark and felt more deeply than anything. The full truth of love is that it involves our surrender, commitment and determination to what may appear as impossible tasks. It is as painful as it is beautiful.

All parts of being human belong to us so if there is any part that seems like a big loud “that’s not me” when you hear the story then … okay, good! You’ve got an adventure ahead of you if you are willing to grab your flashlight and enter the dark.

Dancing Bliss 

When I say Bliss I do not mean only happiness. Bliss is a freedom that we can experience sometimes in the midst of other really unpleasant emotions. It’s a moment of expansion beyond our usual patterns. When I dance, I feel bliss. Maybe not right away; if you struggle letting go and getting into it, I suggest you just simply shake first. You may need to shake it out for 20 minutes. Maybe you only shake today. It’s all the same. But when you hit that place of freedom where you have let go of anything that you are no longer needing to hang onto from the day/week/month/year, you know that you have the most powerful medicines available ~ movement, music and connection.

I love this quote from Jalaja’s book “The Serpent and the Wave” about women’s journeys with kundalini and the power of dance and movement: “To lose oneself in the rapture of movement and enter states of trance or ecstasy is quite natural. Children do so all the time and in their play rediscover the most ancient ways of altering consciousness. Movement meditation is a conscious continuation of this journey into our bodies, into ourselves”.

Inviting Aphrodite: Awakening Power, Pleasure and Heart

For women curious about igniting more vitality and passion in your body & in life, I am holding workshops with two other women on August 21st, September 19th & October 17th. The workshops involve dance, meditation, and sharing our experience safely with one another. 

We’ve had the first session of Inviting Aphrodite “Deepening our Pleasure” and it was a success!

Here’s some of the feedback we received:

“I loved every part of this event. I loved the sensory activation and all the smells and food… Thank you for the sharing. It rejuvenated my strength”.

“I loved the empowerment and energy we all created … I love the dancing moment, the interaction, love and presence that we all shared”.

“Thank you. I feel whimsical, sensual and hopeful.”

The next session: “Harnessing the Power of the Feminine” is Sept 19th 7-9:30pm.

Cost is $40 for drop-in.

You are welcome to join one or all!

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Intention and Integration with Bruce Tobin

My husband, Prosad, and I stopped by to visit with my friend, colleague and mentor Bruce Tobin (Phd) the other day for what turned into a 4hr chat.
This man is full of intention!
We covered music as therapy, art as therapy, some tips from his 30 years of guiding Breathwork … and so much more. Perhaps most compelling, because of his latest advancements in the political frontier, are his thoughts on the legalization of the ethical use of psychedelic medicine in counselling for the purpose of healing. (Please note that he will not be a part of any psychedelic-assisted therapy until he is given the full legal go-ahead).
I met Bruce in 2012 when he was a supervisor at BC Families in Transition and then volunteered with him a few years, assisting with Breathwork day-longs that followed the Psychedelics in Psychotherapy Forum. Bruce taught art therapy at UVic for 25 years, had a psychotherapy private practice for 30, and he wrote the book “Expressive Therapies Now”. He’s down to earth, scientific-minded and heart-centered.
In the little time I have spent with Bruce I’ve learned a lot from him about the process of therapy. One thing that popped out for me in our conversation was that he said that we’re probably doing way too much talking in therapy. People are often already overly verbal. This is why he believes so much in art therapy. It slows things down. He spoke about how some people often even speak quite articulately about their issues but when they speak about a feeling, they often pass over it without really feeling it at all. Drawing some aspect of the problem can allow you to zoom in or out, shifting from an intellect grasp of the issue to the more subconscious layers involved in what’s going on.
This is also where his interest in the future of psychedelic therapy comes into play, particularly in some cases where people have practiced breathwork and other avenues first, and continue to feel “stuck”.
Non-ordinary states have played a role in all ancient cultures, whether through drumming, chanting, rhythmic dancing, or social isolation, or ingestion of psychedelic plants. As a rule of thumb, any creative practice that “gets you in the zone” will likely serve to re-wire stress patterns. Non-ordinary states of consciousness bring hope for direct paths to healing because they shift us from a more “Egoic” state, disarming us, penetrating past our defenses, revealing truth that is otherwise hidden.
In couple’s work, Bruce said that he uses art therapy to have each member of the couple remember themselves as sovereign individuals. His first session is often splitting them up and asking them both to “draw the problem”. If they have a wildly different idea of the problem, then they have a whole other problem. Another interesting insight he shared was that couples are so often “working” on their relationship. “What about having FUN?” he said.
Couple’s counselling, can help you sort through your thoughts, beliefs and feelings, and explore or tackle any communication challenges, but we must make sure to make time for integration too … do things differently. I trust you have your own unique ways of finding flow, but I’d suggest time in nature, adventure, and lots of laughs together as good overall goals!

Shout Out to An Art Therapy Super Woman!

Art is an immediate bridge between the conscious and unconscious.
If you are ever looking for a caring and skilled Art Therapist, I got your back! A good friend of mine, Diana Newman, is trained in Expressive Arts Therapy and she’s always unraveling falsities and opening up the mind with her art!
Here’s one of my favourite paintings of hers that she called “Another Dimension” and the poem she wrote to accompany it:
Open your eyes
Open your mind
Feel what’s around
The cascading waterfalls of acidic ecstasy
are right here in front of you
Where nothing is dead and gone
Where everything exists
And is forever alive
Nothing can be taken away from you
Open yourself to the real world birthing through you
Open yourself to the gold that gave way to you
Check out Diana’s art website!

Focusing-Oriented Journey

Usually in the therapy room, you will just find our conversation flowing … but occasionally I tell you something about the approach I’m using.
I draw from many places, but I have been quite deeply influenced by the philosophy of Eugene Gendlin after taking some Focusing trainings 5 years ago. As soon as I experienced it, I immediately felt the depth of understanding, and sweet simplicity, that this approach holds.
I am so excited to have recently initiated a 2-year certification training in Focusing-Oriented Therapy!
While most Western psychotherapies are pain centered and require people to re-live painful stories, Focusing offers us a path through the pain, by offering a way to allow the body’s own inherently positive direction and force to move us. It’s work, but not in the way that we lose touch with what is pleasant.
I will be exploring the philosophy more deeply as I truly love the honesty that presents itself as we practice listening more closely to the felt-sense of the body. I look forward to how increasing my skill in this way translates to even more heart in the session hour.


Here’s a video of Gendlin himself to give you a ‘Sense’ of it 😉

Tips on Creating an Alter

Would you like to set intentions in your home or work space for more love, ease and beauty?
I was reflecting on a practice that would be fun to share and decided to offer you a few simple tips on Creating an alter ♡
The first thing to do isgather some items that feel sacred to you. That could mean a Buddha or Goddess statue, but could also be rocks or stones, candles, incense, something with colours you love, or my personal favorite ~ a photo or photos of a person or people you love!
Choose a special space. Even if it’s just a corner in your living room, make it a special space by moving any objects that don’t bring you joy out of the way. Clear the space with sage, palo santo or incense.
Arrange your items with intention. Hold each item and ensure it brings you a felt sense of joy before intuitively placing it somewhere that is appealing to you. You can always reposition it, but most importantly, pay attention to how it feels to create; notice if your mind is soothed by the act of creation.
Finally, commit to tending your inner world andvisit your sacred alter each morning or night, light a candle and pay attention to your breath for at least 5 mins.
(The word sacred does not have to be considered religious. Instead, if Sacred means “having something to do with Holiness”, and “Holy” means “revered” than you can think of the word sacred as an indication of special Intention).

Creating Connection

If you want to be truly free: recognize and admit it to yourself when you’re afraid.
What do I mean when I say this? I mean that by nature we all have insecurities. Maybe we feel a little insecure on a daily basis, maybe it feels like a lot sometimes. But the degree of intensity the accompanying emotions escalate to depend a lot on how we were treated by those whose job it was to nurture our developing minds.
Our hard-wired need for emotional contact and responsiveness from caregivers is a survival response, and it drives the bond of security a baby seeks with its mother. Current research indicates that you still have this need for a secure attachment from a significant other today, and it evolves into the emotional bond you have with your partner. Attunement, responsiveness and emotional engagement with your partner lead to love, safety and emotional security in the relationship and in yourself.
Sorry New Age positive thinking movement … The problem is not that we have insecurities! The problem lies in when we deny them and leave them in our subconscious to control us or guide our behaviours. The tricky part is that when we feel our insecurities, we don’t often disclose them to the world because of times in the past that we were hurt. In fact, you probably have some well-constructed defences that keep you from admitting when you just don’t feel good enough, and you even keep it from yourself.
If you’re in a romantic relationship then it’s probably even more difficult to hold your centre point! 
Because of that hard-wired drive for emotional contact and responsiveness from your loved one, if you don’t feel connected once you have grown that beautiful attachment bond with the other, you can be quick to attack or defend against the sense of not being connected! Even if leaving you or ending things hasn’t even crossed their mind, the threat response is very real! The fear center in the brain is fired up and it’s saying “don’t reject/abandon me!” Once the amygdala sends out the alarm, we don’t respond – we react! 
So, what if you slow it all down, take some breaths, and admit that you’re reacting to a threat that may be more your perception of the situation than the reality of what the other person is intending. 
I have been one of those people who has said “If you don’t feel worthy, look inside” but the truth is wounds that happen in relationship are healed in relationship.
There are benefits to alone time, of course! Meditation, journalling, time in silence to just breath in nature can be very important practices for your ease and progress of psychological development … but I don’t buy that alone time is a solution to “clear” your feelings of insecurity as though maybe if you clear enough you will never feel it again?
Attempting to “clear” your feelings through isolation and withdraw doesn’t do the trick, so what does?
What would it be like to admit them to your partner? Feelings are there to be seen, felt and explored in a safe space with another in order to widen our perspective on what they are indicating and whether they are serving you. 
How much new energy would you find in your life if less was tied-up in managing your image to the outside world, including with your partner?
How would your relationship look if rather than “explaining” the reasons why you feel insecure half-consciously pointing to situations and memories where you felt it … you just admit you don’t know exactly what you’re feeling because fear is muddling up your mind in this moment. 
The next time you feel a little “messed up”, say that. Not for the intention to wallow in it or to have the other person solve anything for you, but for the purpose of honesty and to have it held by another before it becomes something bigger and dominates your whole perspective. I imagine you might inspire some to say “I feel a little messed up too”. It may not end the feelings, but it will probably lead to connection …
and isn’t connection what we’re actually seeking anyway?
Written by Angela Caruk, RCC, adapted from the work of Naomi Adams and Dr. Sue Johnson.

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